Working as legal counsel for a private company, she regularly juggles several projects at once. Sudden changes in her priorities aren’t a surprise – they’re expected.
Now with a baby at home, the new mom has added a new set of priorities to her weekly list.
Downing sat down with us to share her experience with becoming a working mom, plus the scheduling hacks she uses to keep her work and family on track.
1. Expect A New Type of Deadline
Committing to giving a presentation next week or completing a major project by the end of the quarter – ya, no problem. Committing to your baby’s 8 p.m. bedtime is your new major deadline.
“Now that I have her I know that we have to be keep her bedtime routine the same,” Downing said. “She has to have her bath by 7:15 and be in bed by 8.”
Having a child will instantly add a long list of tasks to your weekly schedule, pushing other priorities to the weekend.
“It changes what the weekly things look like, making the emphasis on family dinners and stuff on the weekends that much more important.”
2. Expect More Changes
Got used to your new schedule? Great! It’s changing again.
As your kid grows up, his or her schedule and commitments will change wildly. You’ll go from planning daily naps and feedings to figuring out when you’re going to finish that science fair project.
“Right now she’s a baby and she has no homework,” Downing said. “But I know the time will come when she’s got homework and who knows – I’ll have to make a crazy diorama out of who knows what.”
Downing expects some things to get easier as her daughter gets older, but explains that once simple daily tasks could become a little more complicated.
“Yes it will be nice that she can dress herself, but whether or not she dresses herself in a tulle skirt and rain boots – that might not be appropriate for what she’s doing that day!”
3. ‘Winging It’ Can Be Tough
The days of casually deciding how to spend your Saturday are over. Being a working parent requires a pretty good game plan so you’re not suddenly stuck with a hungry baby and an empty fridge.
“Going to the grocery store with a baby is 5 times harder because you don’t know if they’re going to lose it in the middle of the store,” Downing said.
She suggests adding a divide-and-conquer strategy to the overall plan by scheduling errands when your spouse or family member can watch the baby.
4. Working Late Is Not An Option
Procrastinating during the day because you know you can bust your ass all evening to make a deadline is no longer an option.
“It’s not like he can just be at work all the time anymore,” Downing says about her husband. “He has to have time with her.”
Parents must take advantage of the time they have to work because ‘later’ is all about family.
“He has to be more efficient during the day, so rather than having that extra 15 minute conversation with a coworker he’s more focused on getting work done so that he can get home and spent time with her.”
5. Create Multi-leveled To-Do Lists
At work Downing manages several projects at once. To keep track of it all, she creates multi-leveled to-do lists.
“I use an overall to-do list that I keep running, then I break those down into individual tasks,” Downing said.
This strategy not only keeps her organized, but also helps eliminate questions about priority.
“Whenever I’m looking at a project, I don’t have to think about what the next step is,” Downing explains. “I’ve already written down what I need to do next, so then I don’t spend as much time transitioning between projects.”
On Friday afternoons she spends 45 minutes to an hour creating her to-do lists for the following Monday.
6. Host Sunday Night Overviews
For her family, Downing aims to have a good game plan down by the beginning of each week.
“If it’s dinner out with friends, or a family dinner, or even just a date night I try to have all of that set on Sunday so we can review it as a family before the week starts.”
She spends 1-2 hours each week prepping her family game plan and going over it as a family on Sunday evenings.
7. A Schedule That Means Something
As an employee you’re bound to take on tasks that you think are pointless or were assigned as busy work. The tasks you have to do for your child, however, are non-negotiable
“I’ve always felt a sense of responsibility for the people that I work for and the people that I work with,” Downing explains. “But now I have to hold myself much more accountable for things to be done at home because there’s someone else depending on me now.”
The feeling of purpose was something Downing didn’t fully expect, and it gave her a higher level of motivation to push through extra busy days.
“You’re not resentful of all of the extra work,” Downing said. “You find this more deep-seeded sense of responsibility for everything.”
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